Red Stars defender Sam Staab relishes first appearances for national team

Because of her durability and ability, Red Stars central defender Sam Staab has built a strong reputation around the NWSL. The Red Stars valued her so much they traded the third overall pick in this year’s draft to the Washington Spirit to acquire her, and then signed her to a three-year contract extension to anchor a team in transition.

With Staab, the Red Stars knew what they were getting: a skilled left-footed defender who practically never leaves the field. Three times in her career, Staab has played every minute of her team’s regular-season matches, and is on pace to do the same entering the Red Stars’ game Sunday at the North Carolina Courage.

But despite her résumé, which includes a 2021 NWSL title and a 2023 NWSL Best XI First Team nod, Staab, 27, never got a chance to take the field for the U.S. women’s national team until earlier this month, when she participated in a USWNT camp and subsequently played twice against South Korea. In her June 1 debut, Staab played 30 minutes. Then, true to form, she played all 90 three days later.

“It was really exciting,” Staab said. “I was just really happy. I’m obviously not new in this league, so you never really know what coaches are looking for. I was really excited to be given an opportunity. To be able to play was just another thing. I’m just really grateful and really happy for the opportunity.”

Under new coach Emma Hayes, perhaps overlooked players such as Staab can emerge for the national team with a new set of eyes picking the squad. Hayes, who coached the Red Stars from 2008-10, spent 12 wildly successful seasons at Chelsea and an ocean away from the U.S. soccer scene.

Staab, however, said she doesn’t know how Hayes is scouting the player pool, considered one of the deepest in the world. She’s just staying focused on playing her best for the Red Stars and seeing where that takes her.

“If people play well, people are going to notice,” Staab said. “Whether that’s other coaches, coaches with the national team or fans . . . I don’t really know what their scouting process is going to be. I would hope that whoever’s playing well at that time is getting looks and getting chances.

“I’m happy to have gotten a chance from them and done what they potentially would want to see from someone in my position. Speaking from my own experience, that was exciting for me to get an opportunity because I haven’t yet before.”

Staab was philosophical about her wait to play for the USWNT. There were days when it inspired her, but also times when it was challenging to handle.

Due to when she got her chance in her career, however, Staab felt more prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.

“It obviously ebbs and flows,” Staab said. “I would hope to say that it was more driving me, but there’s obviously days where it’s frustrating. Honestly, everything happens as it should, and it doesn’t always go as planned, but it happens when it should.”

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